'The Third Eye' display at the Civic Centre

Third Eye installation

The title for Elmbridge Museum’s latest exhibition, hosted at the Civic Centre in Esher, comes from a 1929 film entitled ‘The Third Eye’. The film was produced at Nettlefold studios in Walton and tells the story of a financer who installs television technology in banks as part of a plan to rob them.

The exhibition examines how photography, radio, film and television have been used, developed and eventually brought into the home. It is wonderful to think that in a relatively short number of years, the objects on display at the Civic Centre developed from being objects of scientific wonder at the Paris World’s Fair in 1900 - the ‘Perfecscope stereoscope - to the coronation of the Queen being broadcast live on television in 1953.

As with many social histories, there are decisive and definitive moments in their formation, and radio and television is no different. Brought back from the front line of World War 1 after rapid technological progresses, many of the first hobby radio users were soldiers. If radio was an infant during the First World War then it was fully grown by 1939 when Neville Chamberlain announced, via the medium of radio, that Britain was at war with Germany.

After the war, radio and television were rolled out farther across the UK as the new Queen’s coronation loomed. For many, this was the perfect opportunity to invest in a radio or even a television set! Sales of both soared throughout the early 1950s and on 2 June 1953, as Queen Elizabeth II walked down the aisle of Westminster Abbey, more people watched an event live on television than listened on a radio. This was the first time in history that this had happened.